Saturday, December 29, 2007

Third Culture Kid (TCK)

My least favorite question is, "So where are you from?" From the age of 4 I grew up overseas in Venezuela because my parents were (and still are) missionaries (which also makes me an MK - Missionary Kid.) It's something I personally love and one of the things that makes me unique. However, I often struggle with where I'm really from. Perhaps that's another reason I love being a military wife because we move so often.

I was blessed to attend a university where there were many individuals who could relate to me. At one point, if someone asked me my dreaded question, I would respond with, "Do you mean where was I born (Ft. Worth), where I call home (Caracas), where I go to school (Arkadelphia, AR), or where my driver's license if from (Mississippi)?" Now I try to respond with "Oh we're a military family" since only two of my three children were born in the same state. It'll be something my children will have to contend with, but I see advantages with it broadening their perspectives. However, it does also cause a bit of an identity crisis and restlessness. One of my favorite books, Grandfather's Journey, has a quote that sums it up. "The funny thing is, the moment I am in one country, I am homesick for the other."

I recently came across a list that made me laugh an put things into a humorous perspective.

You know you're a TCK when:

- You've heard this 'textbook' definition of a TCK before: "A third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside their parents' culture. The third culture kid builds relationships to all the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture are assimilated into the third culture kid's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of the same background, other TCKs."

- "Where are you from?" has more than one reasonable answer.
- You've said that you're from foreign country X, and your audience has asked you which US state X is in.
- You speak two languages, but can’t spell in either.
- You feel odd being in the ethnic majority.
- You have a passport but no driver's license.
- You go into culture shock upon returning to your "home" country.
- Your life story uses the phrase "Then we moved to..." three (or four, or five...) times.
- You wince when people mispronounce foreign words.
- You don't know whether to write the date as day/month/year, month/day/year, or some variation thereof.
- The best word for something is the word you learned first, regardless of the language.
- You think VISA is a document that's stamped in your passport, not a plastic card you carry in your wallet.
- Half of your phone calls are unintelligible to those around you.
- You believe vehemently that football is played with a round, spotted ball.
- You consider a city 500 miles away "very close."
- You get homesick reading National Geographic.
- Your minor is a foreign language you already speak.
- When asked a question in a certain language, you've absentmindedly respond in a different one.
- You miss the subtitles when you see the latest movie.
- You've gotten out of school because of monsoons, bomb threats, and/or popular demonstrations.
- You speak with authority on the subject of airline travel.
- You know how to pack.
- You have the urge to move to a new country every couple of years.
- The thought of sending your kids to public school scares you, while the thought of letting them fly alone doesn't at all.
- You think that high school reunions are all but impossible.
- You have friends from 29 different countries.
- You sort your friends by continent.
- You have a time zone map next to your telephone.
- You realize what a small world it is, after all.


jeanetta said...

i see all of that in you and the other mk zens.

Marc and Charity said...

So true Sarah. I can totally identify with this. Great post.